Posts Tagged ‘Americans With Disabilities Act’

EEOC: Oil Refining Company Fired Pipefitter, Certified Rigger Because She Has Epilepsy

It’s a no-no under federal civil rights law to fire an employee for being disabled with no effort to consider the employee’s ability to actually do the job.

A Washington-based company doing business as Diamond B Constructors, Inc. violated federal law by terminating a tradeswoman because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed June 26.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Angela Watson was dispatched by the local union to work on a reconstruction project for Diamond B at Tesoro Oil Refinery in Anacortes, Wash. Watson is a pipefitter by trade and holds an additional certification as a rigger. When she disclosed that she has epilepsy to her direct supervisor, he and other Diamond B supervisors unilaterally concluded without further inquiry that she could not safely work at heights – even though Watson’s epilepsy was well controlled on medication, she had not requested any accommodation, and was able to work without restriction.

Terminating an employee based on disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington [Case No. 2:18-cv-00926] after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit names Diamond B, its successor Harris Companies, and BLI Northwest, the separate legal entity remaining after Harris acquired Diamond B’s name and operations. The EEOC seeks monetary damages on behalf of Watson, and injunctive relief, which typically includes training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the worksite, and compliance reporting.

“Riggers are pipefitters who are trained to calculate loads and safely attach large components to cranes for lifting, and Angela got a specialized dispatch for this assignment because she’s certified to do that,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che. “When Diamond B falsely presumed that Angela was incapable of practicing her trade and fired her, it violated her rights under the ADA, and the EEOC is here to stand up for those rights.”

EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko said, “Epilepsy reportedly affects 2.2 million Americans. About one out of every 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives, and it affects each person differently. It is critical that employers do not base job decisions on stereotypes, but instead carefully consider each individual’s abilities.”

According to www.dbnw.com, Bellingham, Wash.-based Diamond B Constructors provided commercial and industrial construction services in Washington, Oregon, Montana and California, and employed about 250 people year-round. The company was acquired in January 2018 by the St. Paul, Minn., corporation Harris Companies, one of the largest mechanical contractors in the U.S., with over 1,000 employees in nine locations throughout the country, according to www.hmcc.com.

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“Regarded As” ADA Suit Against Device Maker

Firing or denying someone an employment opportunity because you think they are disabled is just as much a violation of the law as if the person actually disabled.

And because this employer allegedly fell into that thinking, it’s now being hauled into court by the federal government.

IDEC  Corporation, a worldwide industrial device manufacturer, unlawfully fired an  employee at its East Dundee, Ill., location whom it regarded as disabled, the  U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed June 15.

The EEOC  alleges that IDEC committed unlawful disability discrimination when it fired Steven  Massie because of a perceived impairment. According to Julianne Bowman, the  EEOC’s district director in Chicago, the EEOC’s pre-suit administrative  investigation revealed that IDEC fired Massie because of the per­ceived  disabilities of sleep apnea and a heart condition.

Such alleged conduct violates  the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).   The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 18-cv-4168) in U.S. District Court  for the Northern District of Illinois after first attempting to reach a  pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v.  IDEC Corp., was assigned to U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman. The  EEOC’s lawsuit seeks both monetary and injunctive relief. The government’s  litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Bradley Fiorito and EEOC  Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.

“Terminating people who may or  may not have a disability because you fear that they do is unlawful for good  reasons,” said Bowman. “Our investigation revealed that Mr. Massie was fully capable  of working, but that IDEC took his job from him simply based on unfounded fears  and stereotypes regarding his supposed impairment.”

Gregory Gochanour, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago,  added, “The EEOC takes discrimination based on an assumption of disability just  as seriously as discrimination based on an actual impairment. This is common and  harmful but an often overlooked form of discrimination that cannot be ignored.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office  is responsible for processing charges of discrimin­ation, adminis­trative enforcement  and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa  and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

Employer Ponies Up $4.4M in ADA Settlement For Applicants Disqualified After Carpal Tunnel Test

The moral of the story here: Don’t make hiring decisions based on medical tests alone. You’ve got to assess each job candidate individually as to whether they can do the job.

Amsted Rail Co., Inc., a leading manufacturer of steel castings for the rail industry, will pay $4.4 million and furnish other relief to settle a class disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced June 12. The EEOC had charged the Chicago-based company violated federal disability law when it disqualified job applicants based on the results of a nerve conduction test for carpal tunnel syndrome (performed by a third-party contractor) rather than conducting an individualized assessment of each applicant’s ability to do the job safely.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in 2014 (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Amsted Rail Co., Inc., Civil Action No. 14-cv-1292-JPG-SCW) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois seeking relief for Montrell Ingram and other applicants who sought work as “chippers” at the company’s Granite City, Ill., facility. Chippers use a hammer or grinder to remove metal protrusions from steel casings. In November 2017, the court ruled Amsted Rail’s use of the nerve conduction test was unlawful, finding that it had little or no value in predicting the likelihood of future injury. (EEOC v. Amsted Rail Co., 280 F. Supp. 3d 1141 (S.D. Ill. 2017)).

The consent decree entered yesterday by Senior Judge J. Phil Gilbert requires Amsted Rail to provide lost wages and compensatory damages to 40 applicants who were unlawfully denied employment opportunities because of the company’s unlawful hiring practices. In addition, the company will make job offers to some of the applicants and will adopt policies that will prevent similar discriminatory practices in the future.

“While it is lawful under some circumstances for employers to conduct limited medical exams after making conditional offers to job applicants, it is not ‘anything goes’,” said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St Louis District Office. “If workers are concerned about whether a particular medical exam is lawful or necessary, they should ask questions and seek legal advice if necessary.”

EEOC St. Louis District Director James R. Neely, Jr. added, “Employers cannot avoid liability for unlawful discrimination by contracting out pre-employment medical screening and hiring functions and must be diligent to comply with the ADA when they rely on third-party medical vendors. Moving forward, we’re hopeful that Amsted’s compliance with the consent decree will provide equal opportunities to all applicants, without respect to disability.”

Big Wheels: Trucking Company Forks Over $65K in ADA Settlement For Driver Fired After Surgery

“Customer complaints” were apparently a euphemism by this employer that didn’t want to keep a worker on after his hip replacement surgery.

Regional International Corporation, a commercial truck and trailer dealership with locations in Western New York, has agreed to pay $65,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced June 7.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in June 2015, Regional International Corporation fired a truck parts delivery driver shortly after he requested leave for hip replacement surgery to treat hip osteoarthritis. The same supervisor who had recently given the driver a performance rating of “Exceptional” and wrote that he had received “no complaints from customers” nevertheless told the driver that he was being fired due to customer complaints. This supervisor also informed the EEOC during the agency’s investigation that disabled people could not work for the company because they would not be able to get the work done, EEOC claimed.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from disability discrimination, including the failure to provide reasonable workplace accommodations to qualified individuals who have a disability, have a record of disability, or are regarded as disabled. Such reasonable accommodations can include leaves of absence. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York (EEOC v. Regional International Corporation, Civil Action No. 17-cv-06505), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

On June 6, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford entered a consent decree resolving the case. In addition to a $65,000 award for lost wages and other damages, the three-year consent decree includes multiple steps to prevent disability discrimination from occurring at the company in the future. For example, the decree requires comprehensive training on the protections of the ADA for all employees, including supervisors and human resource employees, as well as the adoption of policies and practices to promote a workplace free of disability discrimination.

“Here, an ‘Exceptional’ employee lost his job after requesting time off to treat a painful disability,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “We are pleased that the parties were able to reach a resolution to better protect the rights of employees with disabilities.”

Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director, added, “We hope that this settlement will help inform employers and the public at large that under the ADA, employees may be entitled to take medical leave when it is a reasonable accommodation of a disability.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Bad Bet: Vegas-Based Gaming Co. Coughs Up $3.5M in ADA Settlement Over Return-to-Work

This employer took a gamble with its medical conditions policy–and lost big time.

Nevada Restaurant Services, a large Las Vegas-based gaming company that operates slot machines, taverns and casinos in Nevada and Montana, will pay $3.5 million and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced June 6.

According to the EEOC’s suit, since at least 2012, Nevada Restaurant Services violated federal law by maintaining a well-established companywide practice of requiring that employees with disabilities or medical conditions be 100 percent healed before returning to work. This policy does not allow for engagement in an interactive process or providing reasonable accommodations for disabled employees.

The EEOC also charged that Nevada Restaurant Services fired and/or forced employees to quit because they were regarded as disabled, had a record of disability, and/or were associated with someone with a disability.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). The EEOC filed suit in March 2018 (EEOC v. Nevada Restaurant Services, Case No. 2:18-cv-00954-JCM-CWH) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit provides for $3.5 million in monetary relief for the discrimination victims. In addition, Nevada Restaurant Services will retain a consultant with ADA experience to review and revise company disability policies as appropriate. The company will also implement effective ADA training for human resources and supervisory personnel and staff. Additionally, Nevada Restaurant Services will develop a centralized tracking system for employee requests for disability accommodations. The company is also required to submit regular reports to the EEOC verifying compliance with the decree during its three-and-a-half-year term.

“Systemic disability discrimination is still all too prevalent,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Las Vegas in its jurisdiction. “Besides regularly examining established practices and ensuring that staff is adequately trained, employers must also ensure their decision makers follow through on that training by holding them accountable to complying with the ADA.”

Wendy Martin, local director of the EEOC’s Las Vegas Local Office, added, “The EEOC will continue its quest to identify and eradicate systemic disability discrimination.”

Post-Script: I appreciate News.Law picking up this post for its readers.

 

EEOC: Job Offer Takeaway by Employer Because Applicant Regarded as Having TB Violated ADA

This applicant was dealt a losing hand just by having been exposed to tuberculosis.

M&R Consulting, LLC, a Towson, Md,-based home care agency doing business as Home Instead Senior Care, violated federal law when it rescinded a job offer because it regarded an applicant as having tuberculosis, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), charged in a lawsuit it announced June 6.

The EEOC said that M&R Consulting conditionally hired a qualified applicant for a caregiving position in Towson, subject to her passing pre-employment requirements, including a skin test for tuberculosis. The applicant, who had prior caregiving experience, tested positive for tuberculosis on the purified protein derivative skin test. However, that skin test only shows that someone has been exposed to tuberculosis bacteria and not whether the person has latent tuberculosis or has progressed to active tuberculosis disease. Prior to this test, the applicant had never tested positive for tuberculosis and had no symptoms of the disease, EEOC charges.

M&R Consulting’s human resources coordinator told the applicant to submit to a chest x-ray for tuberculosis. The applicant emailed M&R Consulting the x-ray, which confirmed that she did not have tuberculosis. According to the suit, M&R Consulting emailed the applicant that, “any positive results are not accepted whether latent or otherwise” and wrongfully rescinded the job offer because it perceived the applicant as disabled.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination because an employer believes someone has a disability, even if she does not have such an impairment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. M&R Consulting, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-01638-ELH) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary, pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said, “The applicant provided an x-ray proving that she did not have active tuberculosis. She was well-qualified for the position but M&R Consulting rescinded the job offer even though she was not a health risk. That’s a violation of the ADA and that’s why we filed this lawsuit.”

“Employers should make hiring decisions based on facts and qualifications, not ill-founded fears or biases about an applicant’s medical condition,” added Jamie R. Williamson, district director of EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). Addressing emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA, is another SEP priority.

The EEOC’s Baltimore Field Office is one of four offices in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

Tone Deaf: Store Denied Communications Accommodations to Employees, EEOC Alleges

What employer wouldn’t appreciate that employees with trouble hearing wouldn’t need some help to do their job in the form of a reasonable accommodation?

Apparently this Walmart Store in Washington, D.C.

Walmart Stores East, LP violated federal disability discrimination law by denying reasonable accommodations to deaf employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed Monday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Walmart Stores East, LP, refused to provide communications accommodations, such as access to sign language interpreters, to Troy Miles and Tonya Bland, who worked at Walmart Store No. 5941 in Northwest Washington, D.C. The EEOC says that Miles and Bland were entitled to accommodations to enable them to obtain information from, and to participate in, meetings, trainings and other workplace communications.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA.) The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-01314) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Employers must provide accommodations to deaf and hard-of-hearing employees, so that they can enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment, such as obtaining information disseminated at meetings and participating in meetings,” said EEOC Washington Field Office Acting Director Mindy Weinstein.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “It was unlawful to ignore deaf employees’ need for effective reasonable accommodations. When employers violate the law, EEOC will hold them accountable.”

The EEOC’s Washington Field Office has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia and the Virginia counties of Arlington, Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford and Warren; and the independent Virginia cities of Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester.